Scotland's Beggars Opera were formed in Glasgow in the late sixties as " System". Their early influences were Procol Harum and The Nice, and especially classical composers such as Franz Suppe, an Austrian citizen with an Italian mother and a Belgian father. They took their name from a successful play written in 1728 by English poet, John Gray. This debut album, released on the Vertigo "swirl" record label, was a milestone in progressive rock music, and ensured that the young Scots attracted good audiences wherever they performed, especially in Germany. The initial line-up was Martin Griffiths on vocals, Alan Park on keyboards, Ricky Gardiner on guitars, Marshall Erskine on bass and Raymond Wilson on drums. Their second album, " Waters of Change", released in 1971, featured the stunning " Time Machine ", the mellotron drenched epic track that became a favourite at concerts. At this stage, Virginia Scott, who would later marry Ricky Gardiner, joined the band as songwriter and mellotron player, and her contribution to the band's overall sound was profound. Another change at the same time was bassist Gordon Sellar, who replaced Marshall Erskine for the next three albums. Hardly a covers band, they nonetheless had minor hits with their versions of the Jimmy Webb classic "MacArthur Park" and Mason Williams' " Classical Gas ", off their fourth album, " Get your Dog off me ", released in 1973. Ex- Writing on the Wall vocalist Linnie Patterson replaced Martin Griffiths for this fourth album, which was totally different in style to the band's previous three albums in that they'd adopted an almost Westcoast AOR style. Although very "un" Beggars Opera, this was actually a very good album, with some consistently high quality stuff from Gardiner especially. Drummer Colin Fairlie (String Driven Thing - another great Scottish act! ) replaced Wilson, but the band split in 1974. Park had a short stint with Tiger ( Nicky Moore) and The Bliss Band before becoming Cliff Richard's musical director. Gardiner went on to feature with David Bowie and Iggy Pop for a short while. Sellar and Gardiner continued the band in the mid seventies and released an album," Sagittary", which, whilst still being quite good, wasn't well received, and the fact that it was a German-only release didn't help the band's cause much either, as it was nigh impossible to find. They split again and reformed for a final time in 1979. Two further albums, " Beggars Can't be Choosers", in 1979, and "Lifeline", featuring, amongst others, vocalist Gordon Neville ( Alan Bown and Rick Wakeman ), in 1980, were issued. German only releases again, they failed to recapture their former glory and Beggars Opera split for good in 1980. Linnie Patterson died a number of years back.
The song Leon played was McArthur Park from the album Pathfinder released in 1972. This song was covered by many artists such as Richard Harris and Donna Summer and even our own Gene Rockwell. This is rather the best version. This Scottish band had seven albums until 1980 when they disbanded. They also covered the song Classical Gas in a very nice way. What is very familiar of their version of McArthur Park is the way they use the harpsichord and the mellotron. Pathfinder is a very brilliant album.
If you are into the progressive rock music you definitely like this one. Webmaster has ordered his after last Sunday night from CD Collection, Alberton City and received it the very next day. Also available from them is a greatest hits collection called "Final" Curtain.
Beggars Opera - Classical Gas, from "Get your Dog off me", their 4th album, released in 1973. Our buddies from Scotland weren't exactly a covers band, but the ones they did (MacArthur Park, Sweet Blossom Woman, and this fantastic version of the Mason Williams' classic'), they did exceedingly well. If you go back in these pages, you'll see that they've been featured on a few occasions already, so we won't repeat too much of their history here. This album, however, saw the inclusion of ex-Writing on the Wall vocalist Linnie Paterson in place of Martin Griffiths and drummer Colin Fairlie replacing Ray Wilson. Guitarist Ricky Gardiner, keyboard player Alan Park and bassist Gordon Sellar were still with the band, as was songwriter and mellotron player Virginia Scott. On the liner notes of the band's previous album, ''Pathfinder", Martin Griffiths intimated that each one of their three albums was different to the other, "Act One" was more classically orientated, with influences drawn from composers like Suppe', "Waters of Change" was more keyboard and song based, and "Pathfinder" was more conceptual in content. In keeping with the tradition, "Get your Dog off me" was totally different to the previous three albums in that, dare it be said, the band were slightly more commercial sounding, but still retaining their trademark keyboard and guitar sound that made them such a great band in their day. Park's harpsichord and Moog on our featured track is absolutely memorable. The band went on to release a further three albums, two of which were released on the German Jupiter label which made them scarcer than chicken teeth. The albums were "Sagittary" in 1974, "Beggars Can't be Choosers" in 1979 and "Lifeline" in 1980. Gordon Neville, ex-Alan Bown and later of Rick Wakeman fame, took over vocal duties for a while. Alan Park joined Tiger, The Bliss Band, The Ronnie Paisley Band and became Cliff Richards musical director. Ricky Gardiner worked with D avid Bowie and Iggy Pop. Linnie Paterson sadly died a few years back. Colin Fairlie had short stint with fellow Scottish prog rockers String Driven Thing. All in all, Beggars Opera were one of the best and most important progressive bands of the seventies - their first three albums are essential additions to the collection of any self-respecting lover of the genre.
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